“If Ronaldo is sad but plays like he normally does then that is fine by me,” Jose Mourinho said in the lead up to his side’s trip to Sevilla. The Portuguese star scored two goals in Real’s last outing but his refusal to celebrate and his revelation post-match about his ‘sadness’ had all the pre-match attention centred on him. Will he score? Will he celebrate? Will he bare a smile? These were the questions at the forefront of everybody’s mind before the kick-off in Andalucia.
Despite his tremendous record of seven goals in Real’s last two matches at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Ronaldo would not go on to score on Saturday night. Unfortunately for Mourinho, neither would any of his teammates as they succumbed to a second League defeat from just four rounds.
The champions looked a disjointed bunch. Their play lacked cohesion and there was a distinct lack of drive and motivation. Points not lost on Mourinho who following the final whistle gave his own damming assessment of his team.
“Congratulations to Sevilla, they did everything to win. We had our reward – we got what we deserved for the awful match we've played,” he said at the post-match Press conference.
“We have a problem with a state of mind. We lack a collective spirit. Only two or three heads are committed, and focused that football is the centre of their lives. We have few compromised minds. But I'm the Coach, therefore this is my fault.”
Mourinho did not spare star man, Ronaldo, of criticism either. “He had no influence on our performance today. Today’s game has been the same as the ones against Valencia, Getafe and Granada.”
The former Inter boss refused to accept the notion that Ronaldo’s below-par display had anything to do with ‘all the noise of the last two weeks’. But, one suspects that it just might. Not only may the situation be affecting CR7 himself, but, it is not inconceivable that the hysteria surrounding him may just have something to do with the lack of focus from other team members.
Despite Ronaldo’s lack of influence on proceedings, he was still one of Real’s better performers and this does not say much. He registered seven shots, more than any other player on the field and had two penalty appeals turned down, one that perhaps should have been given. Still, he cut a frustrated figure for the best part and perhaps some of this was due to a lack of support namely from Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil.
Both players were withdrawn at half-time by Mourinho and it was nothing less than they deserved. Di Maria had a poor first half and was perhaps lucky not to be sent off. Similarly, Ozil was largely anonymous and ineffectual.
The introduction of Luka Modric for the second period did, initially at least, alter the match. The Croatian provided some much-needed spark to the Madrid midfield and he almost clawed his side back into the game when his effort on 52 minutes struck the post. But, eventually, his spark petered out as Real trudged forward hopelessly and rather aimlessly for the equaliser that never came.
After winning La Liga last season, perhaps it just the case that this time around the hunger is not there, as Mourinho suggested: “Sevilla’s players fight every ball as if it was the last of their lives, with a perfect aggressiveness… My team did that against Barcelona and they haven’t done it since.”
Whatever may be the reason behind Real’s stuttering start, Mourinho better find the solution sooner rather than later. Already his side have dropped eight points. To put this into perspective, last season they dropped a total of 14 points. To add to their problems, title rivals Barcelona have made a perfect start. Seemingly unaffected by the change in Coach over the summer, Tito Vilanova’s side have recorded four wins from four and have opened up an eight-point lead over their title rivals.
It may be early days, but, in a championship-race where every point is crucial, Real’s quest for back-to-back titles is already under threat. Winning the Clasico on October 7 is now a must. But, understandably, Mourinho is concerned: “My team doesn’t show up at the moment. That’s my problem. Right now, I have no team and that worries me.”